Panini (about 520 BC – about 460 BC)

Panini was born in Shalatula, a town near to Attock on the Indus river in present day Pakistan. Panini was a Sanskrit grammarian who gave a comprehensive and scientific theory of phonetics, phonology, and morphology. Sanskrit was the classical literary language of the Indian Hindus and Panini is considered to be the founder of the language and literature. It is interesting to note that the word “Sanskrit” means “complete” or “perfect” and it was thought of as the divine language, or language of the gods.

A treatise called Astadhyayi (or Astaka ) is Panini’s major work. It consists of eight chapters, each subdivided into quarter chapters. In this work Panini distinguishes between the language of sacred texts and the usual language of communication. Panini gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. Starting with about 1700 basic elements like nouns, verbs, vowels, consonants he put them into classes. The construction of sentences, compound nouns etc. is explained as ordered rules operating on underlying structures in a manner similar to modern theory. In many ways Panini’s constructions are similar to the way that a mathematical function is defined today.

[Sanskrit’s] potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systemisation of its grammar by Panini. On the basis of just under 4000 sutras [rules expressed as aphorisms], he built virtually the whole structure of the Sanskrit language, whose general ‘shape’ hardly changed for the next two thousand years. An indirect consequence of Panini’s efforts to increase the linguistic facility of Sanskrit soon became apparent in the character of scientific and mathematical literature. This may be brought out by comparing the grammar of Sanskrit with the geometry of Euclid – a particularly apposite comparison since, whereas mathematics grew out of philosophy in ancient Greece, it was. partly an outcome of linguistic developments in India.


A collection by Upendra kumar.

You May Also Like